Monday 14 April : Daily Blog | Jazzaar Festival

Tom Garling (center) with students who attended his improvisation workshop.

Bebop Workshop

Trombonist Tom Garling offered the festival’s first workshop on Monday morning. He demonstrated approaches to voice leading and bebop soloing. Garling, who toured in his early years with the legendary big bands of Buddy Rich and Maynard Ferguson addressed the young group of 21 Swiss music students who gathered to pick up tips on improvising jazz solos. “There are only three approaches to creating a melodic line: scale tones, arpeggios, or approach notes,” Garling said. He then began to demonstrate several ways a soloist could construct a line using these elements.

“There are limitless ways to practice these things,” Garland says. “And there are too many to learn in a lifetime. But that is the beauty of the journey. Realize that no matter how good you become, there will always be more things to learn. You will reach plateaus with your playing. You’ll get to a place where you feel you that you sound good, but then you hear something new, and then you feel unsatisfied with where you are and have to work hard to reach the next plateau. When you begin to learn jazz improvisation, start at whatever level you are at, that might mean you start out playing over “Twinkle Twinkle.”  Once you master that, move to another goal. Take it a step at a time. Remember that music is language. When we are playing we are communicating. When I play a solo, I am telling a story.”

Jazz vocalist Tierney Sutton (right) works with vocalists Grace Taylor and Kevin McPherson.

Vocal Workshop

Jazz singer Tierney Sutton, accompanied by bassist Kevin Axt and drummer Ray Brinker of her quartet, gave a Monday evening workshop on vocal improvisation. Taking her lead from an audience member’s question on how long it takes her to learn a song, Sutton made a point that a jazz singer needs to understand the form and  harmony of a song. “Most songs in the Great American Songbook have a similar structure,” she said. “There are patterns that repeat, so some there will be things that sound familiar to your ear in different songs.

Sutton demonstrated the familiar sound of a chord progression that moves in fifths as she sang the root motion of “Autumn Leaves.” Sutton asked the audience to sing that melody along with her. To elaborate on the concept, she invited singers Grace Taylor and Kevin McPherson out of the audience to join her onstage to improvise in three parts on “Autumn Leaves.” The three of them took turns singing the root motion melody while the other members of the vocal trio either improvised a melody over the top or sang a harmonizing part. The result drew enthusiastic applause from the audience.

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